Self-Portrait as a Butoh Dancer


My feet patter—like rain, they
             stain each plot

of asphalt I clop over, shrieking
             like a kettle.

Peek behind the rice-cream
             make-up & break the illusion

if you must. Just don’t deny my right
             to dance with limbs stiff

as a petrified forest. (I paint
             my tongue with squid ink.)

I jerk & prance & take this
             shroud on, genitals tucked

away, everything human about me
             concealed, hoping

Death will mistake me for one
             of its own & pass me over.

Behind the dark slip & crane-
             flecked kimono, I am only a young

man taking one more step in a series
             of steps, improvising not the howl

that pours from my cracked mouth
             like a darkness, but the fragile

contortion of my face: the ghoulish
             grimace, eyebrows penciled

high, the sweep of my hair loosened like tulips
             hanging from a broken planter.

Though there’s virtue
             in movement, sometimes

I’d like to lie still—not dead
             exactly, but naked

like a doll whose eyes
             only close when she tilts

her head forward, not when
             she stands alone, or

dances like the ghost
             I know I will become,

or the ghost I’ve always wanted
             to be.


Places I've Been

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